Ministers are calling urgent actions regarding fire sprinkler systems in UK Schools
Controversial government proposals to relax fire safety standards for new school buildings as a cost-cutting measure are to be dropped by ministers in a major policy U-turn following the Grenfell Tower fire.
In June 2017 the world stood silently in the wake of a serious tower fire in central London, Grenfell Tower Fire, which killed 80 people with hundreds more sustaining injury or emotional trauma even to this date. Grenfell Tower has become a world-wide tragedy and is one of the worst fire disasters in London since the Blitz.
The Grenfell Disaster has sparked serious concern to the fire safety in buildings not just in the UK, but the world.
Fire Chiefs have called for serious actions to be taken to make sure everyone is in line with fire safety regulations, and that corners are not being cut especially for cost purposes.
Again, and again we hear about how tragedies such as these could have been prevented. Fire Sprinklers have been mentioned time and time again.
Not only could you save costs through any fire damage, but you can also prevent the loss of life which is what is and should priority over anything else.
Fire chiefs have put pressure on government to take action
Fire safety is not something that should be thought upon lightly and has come under close scrutiny since the Grenfell disaster.
All public-sector organisations, schools, in particular, have been fiercely looking at their own fire safety policies which have put pressure on the government to take urgent action before it is too late.
In Scotland and Wales, Fire Sprinkler systems are mandatory in new school buildings, but this is not the case in England and Northern Ireland. Fire Chiefs are now putting immense pressure on the government to change this. London Fire Brigade Commissioner Danny Cotton has accused the government of ‘playing with children’s lives’.
Last year, schools minister Nick Gibb said the inclusion of sprinklers in new school buildings would add 2% – 6% to the cost of works and that fires in schools had declined.
Yet, each year more than 1,300 schools in the UK suffer fires large enough to need attention by local authority fire and rescue services. 56% of these are classed as non-accidental.
The Chief Fire Officers Association state that school fires are getting bigger and more costly. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the average cost of school fires between 200 and 2004 was £58 million per year.
The construction industry says schools can be designed to be low fire risk with exit routes, fire doors and reinforced walls, but is that enough?
An urgent rethink is now underway
Ministers have been ordered to review fire safety policies in each department. An urgent rethink has been issued by the Department for Education after previous guidance on fire safety in schools last year was classed as a substantial ‘watering down of fire safety requirements’.
Fire safety experts have been backed by senior MPs expressing a deep alarm over the past year at the plans warning ministers repeatedly that they could have disastrous results.
David Amess MP, the Conservative chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety, has told BBC Breakfast that a change of approach will be welcomed but added: “we will keep up the pressure until a policy that makes fire sprinklers mandatory in all new schools is announced. We will also insist that checks are carried out on all existing schools to make sure they are safe.”
Let’s hope that it doesn’t take a serious school fire disaster to bring around this much-needed change to regulations.